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Significant Lives

Apple's Steve Jobs Passes into History and so does an Era

October 6th 2011

Computer Topics - Steve Jobs 2

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and the holder of more than 300 technology patents, died on October 5. The eccentric entrepreneur who built Apple into the world’s leading technological company started in a prosaic garage in Silicon Valley. Having built one of the first personal computers marketed, Jobs led Apple to create wildly popular devices such as the iPhone. He was 56.

Sometimes accused of egocentricity, Jobs pioneered the concept of the personal computer and of navigating them by clicking onscreen images with a mouse, which he also developed. In more recent years, Jobs introduced the iPod portable music player, the iPhone and the iPad tablet, which changed how content is accessed and consume in the digital age. "Steve Jobs is one of the great innovators in the history of modern capitalism," New York Times columnist Joe Nocera said in August. "His intuition has been phenomenal over the years." Read more ..

American History

In Search of Thomas Edison

October 5th 2011

History American - Israel Paul
Paul Israel - in the Edison library. Photography by Nick Romanenko

For more than 30 years, Paul Israel has been researching and cataloging the life of the famous inventor—a gargantuan task that has yielded millions of pages of documents that shed light on Edison the man, Edison the innovator, and Edison the marketing genius. Thanks to Israel and his team, the world can get a rare glimpse of Edison’s many achievements and just how he managed to do it.

It’s dark here, in the back of the old Livingston Theater in Piscataway, within the cramped second-floor office of Paul Israel, the director and general editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers. I’m here to talk with Israel about the three decades he has spent trying to understand the guy who invented the lightbulb. But in some kind of cosmic irony, I arrived in the middle of a power failure. So we sit, in the dark.

Israel (GSNB’89) can only laugh. He’s a native of California, lanky, with a salt-and-pepper beard and a Samuel Beckett haircut, and he’s not prone to lose his cool over an electrical system gone kaput. Besides, as the world’s preeminent expert on the man widely considered the world’s preeminent inventor, Israel has much to expound on regarding the subject of Thomas Alva Edison, the darkness be damned. Read more ..

Pakistan on Edge

Pakistani Girl Accused of Blasphemy—for a Spelling Mistake

October 5th 2011

PakistanTopics - Naat vs Lanaat (Urdu)

A misplaced dot on an exam has led to accusations of Blasphemy against a Christian eighth grade student in Havelian near Abbotabad, Pakistan.

Faryal Bhatti, daughter of Sarafeen Bhatti, a nurse, was a student at the POF (Pakistan Ordnance Factories) High School located in POF Havelian colony. According to school authorities, during an exam, Faryal Bhatti misspelled a word in Urdu by wrongly placing a dot in a poem written in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. The word was “Naat” (poem of praise), it was misspelled by a the incorrect placement of a dot as “Laanat” (a curse). This is a common error for a child this age as the written forms of the words are quite similar. Read more ..

Internal Combustion on Edge

Jerusalem’s Bus Station: A Pollution Death Trap for Workers and Shoppers

October 4th 2011

Israel Topics - Jerusalem Bus Terminal

Working in a congested bus station, especially one like Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station is not conducive to one’s health. The toxic fumes created by the hundreds of buses that go in and out of this station, and all the free radicals in this air pollution is almost as bad as “black cloud” infested Cairo, or Tehran, where as many as 27 people die each day from air pollution.

A recent study was made by Israel’s Environment Ministry, and was reported afterwards in the Jerusalem Post. Findings? Pollution at this bus station, including high levels of ozone, sulfur dioxides, nitrous oxides, and particulate matter, made the level of pollution in the air four or five times greater than acceptable levels. Read more ..

America's Economy on Edge

New Jersey Businesses get Creative while Scrambling to Survive

October 3rd 2011

Food - Butterflake bakery, teaneck nj
Butterflake kosher bakery, Teaneck NJ

Many small businesses in the United States are struggling these days because of the economic downturn, changes in technology, and competition from large national chains.

In the small town of Teaneck, New Jersey - not far from New York City - business owners are feeling this crunch. They are finding creative ways to cope with the situation.

Fourth-generation baker Richard Heisler is the owner of this 80-year-old kosher bakery in Teaneck New Jersey. Butterflake Bakery is one of the best-known bakeries in the New York metropolitan area. But Heisler said bakeries are a dying business.

“Forty years ago there was no place to go but a bakery to buy a loaf of bread, to get a piece of cake. Today the client has a myriad of choices to shop at,” said Heisler. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Abusive Men Likely to Repeat Violence if Attraction to Women is Merely Superficial

September 30th 2011

Social Topics - Abused woman

Abusive men who select partners mainly based on appearance are likely to be violent again after completing an abuser intervention program, according to a new University of Michigan study.

Fifty-nine percent of those who mentioned at least one physical trait as the reason for their attraction were violent again after the program, compared with 39 percent who did not mention physical traits as a reason.

"This finding is consistent with the notion that offenders who view their partners superficially will be less likely to end their violence," said Daniel Saunders, professor of social work and the study's lead author.

This type of offender was also more likely to mention their own needs as reasons they were attracted to their partners. They had histories of very severe forms for violence—throwing their partners and hitting them with objects. Read more ..

Environmental Justice

The Plight of the Waterless in Detroit

September 28th 2011

Social Topics - Water is Our Right

In Detroit, the business of water is a dirty one. Thousands of residents have their water shut off every year, but the issue reflects more than just unpaid bills. The shutoffs are at the heart of how the Great Lakes are being stewarded. As the world’s supply of fresh water dwindles, the Great Lakes will only continue to become more of a focal point. Who gets the water in these lakes and who goes without? The ways in which water equity issues play out in Detroit may foreshadow what’s on the horizon for other U.S. cities—and even the world.

Detroit resident Keith Bragg wears a faded blue jacket and stands behind a small wooden lectern. He glances down every now and again, but for the most part he keeps his head up. His voice and eyes are clear as he begins to tell the assembled crowd how he found himself without water. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Clowning Around is Serious Business in Israeli Medicine

September 28th 2011

Israel Topics - Medical clowns

Medical clowns from all over the world are heading to Israel for a congress to learn more about the country's unique model of clown therapy.

Israel didn't invent the notion of entertainers cheering hospitalized children. In many countries, volunteers decked out in crazy hats, jumbo shoes and red foam noses regularly bring their bags of tricks to pediatric wards.

But the Israeli program Dream Doctors did blaze the trail for professionalizing "clown therapy" as a standardized, research-backed healthcare discipline. In late October, the organization will host an international congress of medical clowning associations to share the theories and practices of this unusual approach. Read more ..

Hostile Environment

Overfishing in Brazil leads to Piranha Attacks on Swimmers

September 26th 2011

Animals - Piranha

At least one hundred swimmers in northeastern Brazil were bitten by voracious piranhas – toothy Amazonian fish that folklore contends can strip the flesh from living animals and people.

Authorities in the State of Piauí have decided that it is time to somehow reduce the population of the silvery fish found in Brazilian freshwater lakes and rivers that appear in ravenous large schools.

According to local media over the September 24-25 weekend, vacationing swimmers were hospitalized in the town of José de Freitas after suffering bites on their feet and toes. Romildo Mafra, local director of the Brazilian Environmental Affairs in the town said “Since there are no other predators, the piranhas have begun to attack swimmers.” The attacks occurred approximately 30 miles from Terezin, the capital of Piauí. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

The Crisis of Europe and European Nationalism

September 26th 2011

Travel - Germany-castle

A few years ago, the idea that Europe was not going to emerge as one united political entity was regarded as heresy by many leaders. The European enterprise was seen as a work in progress moving inevitably toward unification - a group of nations committed to a common fate. What was a core vision in 2008 is now gone. What was inconceivable, the primacy of the traditional nation-state is now commonly discussed, and steps to devolve Europe in part or in whole (such as ejecting Greece from the eurozone) are being contemplated. This is not a trivial event.

Before 1492, Europe was a backwater of small nationalities struggling over a relatively small piece of cold, rainy land. But one technological change made Europe the center of the international system: deep-water navigation. Read more ..

South Africa on Edge

Afrikaner Farmers Migrating to Georgia

September 23rd 2011

Russian Topics - Afrikaner Farmer Piet Kemp
Afrikaner Emigrant, Farmer Piet Kemp (credit: Y. Weeks, VOA)

Piet Kemp’s family farmed in southern Africa for three centuries. But now at age 66, this Afrikaner farmer has traded South Africa’s Eastern Transvaal for Eastern Georgia. Here, he is reviving wheat and corn production on what was once a Soviet collective farm. Kemp says he has no regrets.

“I have a new life here,” he explained. “I try to make friends with all the people in Georgia, learning their culture. I have been here since 3rd of March, and I have not heard of one murder in Georgia in this time. I didn’t hear about any bank robbery. I didn’t hear about any one hijacking.”

It was not just high crime rates that prompted Kemp to leave South Africa. “There is no security of land, absolutely no security of land in South Africa,” he stressed. Read more ..

Turkey and Israel

How Music Can Heal the Israel-Turkey Rift

September 19th 2011

Music - Itamar Erez

Israeli guitarist Itamar Erez, who performs with Turkey's best-known musician, says music can help heal the rift between the two countries.

A week after virtuoso Israeli guitarist Itamar Erez returned home in late August from a concert tour of Turkey alongside Turkey's leading name in world music, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, diplomatic ties between the two countries hit an all-time nadir. "I feel very frustrated," Erez tells Israel21c. "So much cultural interchange will now suffer."

He has performed in Turkey dozens of times in recent years, "and never encountered a single problem until this year. I have always felt welcome there. The extremist organizations try to create chaos - this does not reflect the mood of the majority of the Turkish people." Erez wants to help heal the wounds. Read more ..

The Green Edge

The Mideast’s Environmental “Prophet”

September 11th 2011

Israel Topics - Karin Kloosterman of Green Prophet
Karin Kloosterman, founder of Green Prophet

Can young people in the region come together around green issues? The woman behind the Green Prophet website thinks so. She has a vision of a multicultural, borderless Middle East, not unlike the European Union, with Israel and its Arab neighbors brought together not by enmity but by a deep concern for the environment—from Beirut to Jerusalem to Cairo, the people of the Middle East joined by the need for clean air and water, regional issues that transcend nationalities and political ideologies.

It’s a noble, if slightly Quixotic, vision, but perhaps not a surprising one from the woman behind an increasingly popular website with the lofty name, Green Prophet.

“It might sound naïve but I think it’s achievable” within 20 years, said Karin Kloosterman, who in 2008 launched Green Prophet, a news website dedicated to environmental and ecological issues that affect some 20 countries across the Middle East.

“My true vision is to access the young global elite in the region and get their minds working, accessing information and thinking up new ideas for green projects to save the environment for the future,” said the Canadian-born Kloosterman, who moved to Israel just over a decade ago and lives in Jaffa. Read more ..

India on Edge

Children in India score Low on Hand-Eye tests due to Lead Poisoning

September 7th 2011

India Topics - India child labor

Young children in India exposed to lead poisoning scored low on tests that measured hand-eye coordination, a new study finds.

Researchers conducted the study on children living in Chennai, India, and examined how lead exposure influenced scores on three motor skill tests—copying figures, matching designs and using pegboards.

Despite the 2001 phase-out of lead in gasoline in India, the study found that blood lead levels in children remain relatively high, with half (52.5 percent) of the children having a level greater than 10 milligrams. An increase of 10 milligrams decreased the children's visual score by 2.6 points and 2.9 points for the drawing subtest. Read more ..

The Edge of Immigration

Border-Crossing Kids Need more Assistance, say Child Advocates

September 5th 2011

Mexican Topics - Mexican minors

In December 2010, Washington attorney Jennifer Podkul received a call from the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office, asking to speak with one of her clients. The client was a minor, 17, when Podkul, a legal aid group attorney, happened to meet him during a routine visit to a Virginia juvenile jail. The boy had been sent to the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center, which has an immigration wing, after U.S. Border Patrol agents caught him, unaccompanied by any family members, crossing into Texas from Mexico for the third time.

The first time the boy had crossed into the United States was in 2009, he was 16, with a backpack of marijuana a gang told him to carry. He told Podkul he had asked agents then if he could stay and offered to give them information about smuggling routes. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Opinion Survey shows Wide Margin of Disparity Between Muslims and Others on Obama

August 30th 2011

Islamic Topics - Muslim American girl with flag

In a wide-ranging opinion survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, Muslims living in the U.S. show little apprehension as the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches. Completed this year, the comprehensive public opinion survey found no indication of increased alienation or anger among Muslim Americans in response to concerns about home-grown Islamic terrorists, controversies about the building of mosques, according to Pew. In a summary of the survey, the Pew website declared “Muslims in the United States continue to reject extremism by much larger margins than most other Muslim publics, and a higher percentage views U.S. efforts to combat terrorism as sincere than did so in 2007. At the same time, majorities of Muslim Americans express concerns about Islamic extremism here and abroad - worries that coexist with the view that life in post-9/11 America is more difficult for U.S Muslims.” The study was released on August 30. Read more ..

Edge on Education

Professors Reach out to Students' Cellphones and Laptops through LectureTools

August 26th 2011

Computer Topics - Google tablet HOneycomb

This fall, more than 4,000 University of Michigan students in nearly 20 classes will be utilizing LectureTools, an interactive presentation tool that harnesses the potential of laptops and cell phones to serve as learning aids rather than distracting devices.

Perry Samson, an atmospheric science professor who has taught courses with hundreds of students in them, designed LectureTools as a way to improve student interaction and retention in large lectures.

"The key is to engage students through their laptops or cellphones, so they don't drift off onto social networking sites," said Samson, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences. "We've shown we can do that." Read more ..

Inside Latin America

Bolivia's Indigenous Peoples Divided over Controversial Cross-Amazon Highway

August 26th 2011

Latin American Topics - Bolivia protests

Several indigenous groups in Bolivia are protesting against the construction of a highway that will cross the Indigenous Territory and Isiboro Secure National Park (ITISNP) area, their homeland. The reserve is in fact threatened by the construction of this road which will connect the traffic of goods from the Pacific to the Atlantic. About a year ago, indigenous people managed to obtain the suspension of the project for one year. Now that the first stretch of road and the beginning of the works have been approved, indigenous groups, including the Moxeño, Yuracaré and Chimánare nations, are protesting publicly.

This is the biggest series of demonstrations in Bolivia since the violent convulsions of 2008, when scores of people were killed in confrontations with security forces over the nationalization of Bolivia's rich natural gas resources.

The first demonstration, which reached the capital, La Paz, began on August 2 and brought together three different indigenous nations, which are opposed to the route that will pass through the territories they call "the big house." The new road will stretch from the municipality of Villa Tunari, in the Department of Cochabamba in Bolivia's highlands, to Bolivia's capital city of La Paz. This would ultimately be connected to a highway stretching across Brazil to Bolivia's Amazonian lowlands. Read more ..

The Medical Edge

Evidence Grows that Resistant HIV/AIDS is Spread by Those Receiving Therapy

August 25th 2011

Science - HIV AIDS virus

Since HIV infection rates began to rise again around 2000, researchers have been grasping for answers on what could be causing this change, especially in the homosexual community. The rising numbers are a stark contrast to the 1990's, when infection rates dropped due to increased awareness of the virus. A new study in Israel reveals that the number of new HIV cases diagnosed each year in the last decade saw a startling increase of almost 500 percent compared to the previous decade, and similar trends have been reported in a number of other developed nations, including the U.S.

According to Prof. Zehava Grossman of Tel Aviv University's School of Public Health at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Central Virology Laboratory of the Ministry of Health, a new approach to studying HIV transmission within a community has yielded a disturbing result. By cross-referencing several databases and performing a molecular analysis of the virus found in patients, an astonishingly high number of newly-diagnosed men with male sexual partners were found to have contracted the virus from infected, medicated partners who are already aware of their HIV-positive status. Read more ..

Europe on Edge

Growth of Islamistan in Europe means No-Go Zones for Non-Muslims

August 23rd 2011

Islamic Topics - Muslims at prayer in Spain
Muslims at prayer in Italy

Islamic extremists are stepping up the creation of "no-go" areas in European cities that are off-limits to non-Muslims.

Many of the "no-go" zones function as microstates governed by Islamic Sharia law. Host-country authorities effectively have lost control in these areas and in many instances are unable to provide even basic public aid such as police, fire fighting and ambulance services.

The "no-go" areas are the by-product of decades of multicultural policies that have encouraged Muslim immigrants to create parallel societies and remain segregated rather than become integrated into their European host nations.

In Britain, for example, a Muslim group called Muslims Against the Crusades has launched a campaign to turn twelve British cities – including what it calls "Londonistan" – into independent Islamic states. The so-called Islamic Emirates would function as autonomous enclaves ruled by Islamic Sharia law and operate entirely outside British jurisprudence. Read more ..

The Way We Are

The Weight-Shocks of Marriage and Divorce Differ for Men and Women

August 23rd 2011

Social Topics - Obese man

Both marriage and divorce can act as “weight shocks,” leading people to add a few extra pounds – especially among those over age 30 - according to a new study. But when it cites to large weight gains, the effects of marital transitions are quite different for men than they are for women. For men, the risk of a large weight gain increased most prominently after a divorce. But for women, the risk of a large weight gain was most likely after marriage.

“Clearly, the effect of marital transitions on weight changes differs by gender,” said Dmitry Tumin, lead author of the study and doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State University. “Divorces for men and, to some extent, marriages for women promote weight gains that may be large enough to pose a health risk.” The probability of large weight gains following marital transitions increased the most for people past age 30.

“For someone in their mid-20s, there is not much of a difference in the probability of gaining weight between someone who just got married and someone who never married. But later in life, there is much more of a difference,” he said. Read more ..

Medical Edge

Low Vitamin-D Puts Women at Risk

August 23rd 2011

Social Topics - Sullen Woman

A study links low vitamin D in young girls with early menstruation, which is a risk factor for a host of health problems for teen girls as well as women later in life.

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health measured the blood vitamin D levels in 242 girls ages 5-12 from Bogota, Colombia, and followed them for 30 months. Girls low on vitamin D were twice as likely to start menstruation during the study than those with sufficient vitamin D, said epidemiologist Eduardo Villamor, associate professor in the U-Michigan SPH.

This is important for several reasons, Villamor said. Worldwide, there has been a slow decline in the age of the first menstruation, or menarche, for years, which Villamor says suggests an environmental cause, since the genetics that trigger puberty haven't changed. Read more ..

Religious Tolerance

Pakistan: Impunity for Involuntary Servitude and Conversion to Islam

August 22nd 2011

PakistanTopics - Pakistani Christians protest

A Christian family consisting of 26 persons, including women and children, were enslaved in Pakistan for over 30 years. Forced to work on a farm in the Punjab region belonging to a wealthy Muslim landowner, the extended family only recently managed to regain freedom. Reduced to servitude for three decades, the family members escaped their captor through the intervention of the Catholic bishop of Bahawalpur. Meanwhile the rape and abduction of Christian girls, forced to marry Muslim men and forcibly converted to Islam, continues. The latest incident took place at Quetta: a young girl, after two years of captivity, managed to escape and is now safe at an undisclosed location but faces death threats. Read more ..

The Sub-Sahara on Edge

New Opportunities Give Sub-Saharan Women Room for Change

August 22nd 2011

Africa Topics - women in kigali - rwanda
Scene in Kigali, Rwanda (Credit: F. Schertzer)

Sub-Saharan Africa often evokes images of conflict, famine, and disease. In many cases, women bear the brunt of the region’s misfortunes. But new opportunities and constitutions advancing gender parity have opened up the political space for women.

In Rwanda, Chad, and other countries, women are allocated up to 30 percent of parliamentary seats. In fact, Rwanda is now the world’s first country where women Members of parliament (MPs) outnumber men.

“These kinds of changes need to be encouraged because without women fully engaged in both civil society as well as formal political office, it will be as if trying to carry forward with only half the sky,” said Emira Woods, Co-Director of Foreign Policy in Focus and Associate at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. Read more ..

Inside Pakistan

Finding a Bride the Old-Fashioned Way: Kidnap Her

August 11th 2011

PakistanTopics - Lahore's Cathedral

Farah Hatim, 24, a resident of Rahim Yar Khan in South Punjab was abducted on May 8, 2011 by Zeehan Ilyas and his brothers Imran and Gulfam. She forced to convert to Islam and marry Zeeshan Ilyas. Human rights organizations and the Catholic Church had condemned the act and demanded action in response to this violation of human rights.

Justice and Peace Commission was leading the case. They took the case to the session court under the FIR, Case No. 150/11 US/ 365-B CR.PC. The police had been threatening the family since then. Session Judge Khawaja Mir transfered the case to the High Court for hearing due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The appeal at the high court was presented by the Justice and Peace Commission and APMA (All Pakistan Minorities Alliance). Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman from the High Court, Bahawalpur bench instructed the district police of Rahim Yar Khan and the families to appear before the court on July 20th. Read more ..

Edgy Times

Instantly Detect Date-Rape Drugs Hidden in Cocktails

August 10th 2011

Social Topics - Cocktail hour

Women know it's wise to beware when out at a bar or club where there could be more than just alcohol in that cocktail given to them. Psychoactive substances classified as "date rape" drugs can be dropped into an unsuspecting victim's drink, rendering her barely conscious and susceptible to sexual assault.

Now Prof. Fernando Patolsky and Dr. Michael Ioffe of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences have developed an easy-to-use sensor that, when dipped into a cocktail, will instantly detect the presence of a date rape drug. When ready for commercial purchase in just a few years, the sensor will be lightweight and discreet, easily transportable in a pocket or purse. Read more ..

Inside Mexico

Mexican Government Entices Mexican Migrants to Invest in Mexico

August 9th 2011

Economy - Remittance 2

In a stepped-up bid to attract migrant dollars, the Mexican government announced late last week that it will financially back a planned investment pool of more than $40 million. The Calderon administration’s objective, said Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari, is to realize “the potential of production capacities and take advantage of our compatriots’ skills through business formation.”

Ferrari made the announcement together with other senior Mexican officials who also took the opportunity to promote a business gathering slated for Los Angeles this month and that is intended to increase migrant investments back home.

Miguel Maron, the Economy Ministry’s deputy minister for small and medium business, said migrant remittances are currently under-utilized for productive purposes. Only three percent of migrant dollars go toward economic development, with the vast bulk of the money spent on routine expenses, according to numerous reports.

In the first six months of 2011, migrant remittances fetched just over $11 billion for Mexico, slightly outpacing the comparable period for 2010 but still lagging behind the dollar flow prior to the 2008 world economic melt-down. Remittances account for an estimated two percent equivalent of Mexico’s Gross Domestic Product. Read more ..

Inside Morocco

Snake "Charming"-- Banned in India, yet Thriving in Morocco

August 9th 2011

Morroco Topics - Morrocan Snake Charmer

Although I care about the snakes, I hoped to goodness, when my face was within mere inches of the cobra, that its fangs had been removed.

Most nights, Mohammed El Rachidi takes his cobras and vipers to La place Jemâa el Fna in Marrakech, a throbbing tourist attraction in Morocco’s most colorful city. The story goes that the snakes rise from their baskets to the sound of the charmer’s flute, and mesmerized by the music, begin to “swoon.”

So far, the Green Prophet Moroccan experience has included Karin’s rocking two nights at the Kasbah du Toubkal, a stunning eco-resort in the Atlas Mountains, and my ungraceful summit of the highest point in North Africa. A must see on every Lonely Planet reader’s list, I’ve resisted looking too closely at the so called snake charmers, mostly because the ancient “art” has such a long and romantic history that I’m reluctant to give a negative glow. Alas, the pursuit of truth prevails. Read more ..

The Way We Are

Luxury Cars Don't Necessarily Make Us Feel Better

July 27th 2011

Automotive - BMW M1

If you think driving a luxury car like a BMW, Lexus or Cadillac makes you feel better—think again, says a University of Michigan researcher.

"Almost everyone assumes that driving a luxury car is more enjoyable than driving an economy car, but the reality is more complicated," said Norbert Schwarz, professor of marketing at Michigan's Ross School of Business. "When drivers focus on their car while driving, a luxury car is indeed more fun than an economy car. But most of the time, the driver's mind is preoccupied with the mundane issues of daily life and the car makes little difference."

In a new study published in the current issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Schwarz and colleague Jing Xu of Peking University explore why it is difficult for consumers to learn from their own consumption experiences. Why is it that drivers of luxury cars believe that their car is a major source of joy even though most of the time they would feel just as well in an economy car? Read more ..

Ancient Americans

War: What is It Good For?

July 26th 2011

Latin American Topics - Inca woman

Warfare, triggered by political conflict between the fifth century B.C. and the first century A.D., likely shaped the development of the first settlement that would classify as a civilization in the Titicaca basin of southern Peru, a new UCLA study suggests.

Charles Stanish, director of UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, and Abigail Levine, a UCLA graduate student in anthropology, used archaeological evidence from the basin, home to a number of thriving and complex early societies during the first millennium B.C., to trace the evolution of two larger, dominant states in the region: Taraco, along the Ramis River, and Pukara, in the grassland pampas.

"This study is part of a larger, worldwide comparative research effort to define the factors that gave rise to the first societies that developed public buildings, widespread religions and regional political systems — or basically characteristics associated with ancient states or what is colloquially known as 'civilization,'" said Stanish, who is also a professor of anthropology at UCLA. "War, regional trade and specialized labor are the three factors that keep coming up as predecessors to civilization."

The findings appear online in the latest edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more ..

Russia on Edge

Russia’s Perfect Storm … of Human Error

July 25th 2011

Russian Topics - volga rescue crew

The rain was light. The winds were moderate, And the waves were only one meter high.

Russia’s mid-July shipping tragedy was a perfect storm—of human error.

The Volga riverboat Bulgaria was designed to carry 140 people, but it was loaded with 208. Most of the 59 children seem to have been waved on board without tickets. Almost two thirds had the same birth date: Dec. 30, 1999.

Launched shortly after Stalin died and last overhauled in 1980, the 56-year-old Bulgaria was no longer licensed to carry passengers. But, oddly, on June 15, a Russian river inspector signed off on its seaworthiness. Read more ..

Islam on Edge

Australian Muslim Convert insists Islam is Beautiful Despite 40 Lashes for Drinking Alcohol

July 20th 2011

Islamic Topics - Australian victim of shariah
Chris Martinez displays wounds from lashing

An Australian who had recently converted to Islam was allegedly punished with lashings by four fellow Muslim believers who broke into his home during pre-dawn hours because he had been drinking alcohol. Chris Martinez of Sydney said, nonetheless, that the Australian Muslim community has been supportive since the July 17 assault. Martinez confessed to a drinking problem and that he had been imbibing before the lashing. Two men have been charged in the incident. Non-Muslims raised concerns about the application of Islamic religious law known as Shariah in Australia.

Martinez was held down on his bed and whipped up to 40 times by the four bearded strangers who awakened him at approximately 1 am at his apartment on Sydney’s west side. Three of the men restrained him as the fourth applied the canonical 40 lashes with a cable. The assault lasted approximately 30 minutes and left Martinez (31) covered with welts. Martinez said, nonetheless, that Islam is a “beautiful religion.” Read more ..

Guyana on Edge

Guyana Sails into Uncharted Waters as Legislative Elections Loom

July 16th 2011

Latin American Topics - Guyanase politicians

As Guyana prepares for its upcoming parliamentary elections, tensions between its two major political parties ride high.  The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the People’s National Congress (PNC), bitter adversaries since their inception in the 1950s, are the main contenders for the presidency, with the majority party’s presidential candidate assuming office.

Guyana, a small nation of fewer than 800,000 people, is a former British colony and South America’s lone English-speaking country. Read more ..

The Way We Are

African-American Men Prioritize Family and Community over Their Own Health

July 13th 2011

Social Topics - Father and son reading

Black men place a higher priority on fulfilling social roles such as family provider, father, husband and community member than they do on physical activity—and their health suffers because they don't often find time for both. A new study from the University of Michigan School of Public Health looks at why many African-American men aren't more physically active.

"This is our most important paper to date, because the findings underpin all of our other research on African American men's health behaviors. It also flies in the face of the way African American men are often portrayed in health literature," said Derek Griffith, assistant professor in the U-M SPH and study author. "The men in our study are interested in being healthy, but they put their job and family responsibilities before their own health." Read more ..

Edge of Mental Health

Children Who Seldom Smile are At Risk for Depression

July 13th 2011

Social Topics - Child alone and sad

A new study from the University of Michigan and the University of Pittsburgh shows that even if a child isn't crying, frowning or displaying other negative emotions on a consistent basis, another warning sign is when a child shows fewer positive displays, like hugging a parent or smiling and laughing.

"Surprisingly, it seems that it is low levels of happiness, as opposed to high levels of sadness, what may help explain why these kids too often develop depressive disorders," said Nestor Lopez-Duran, an assistant professor of psychology at U-Michigan and one of the study's authors. Read more ..

Inside Russia

Buddhism Rebounds in Russia Despite Opposition

July 12th 2011

Russian Topics - Ivolga Buddhist Monastery
Ivolga Buddhist monastery

For four generations, the Soviets waged war on Buddhists, sometimes branding them “Japanese spies.” Now, 20 years after the collapse of communism, Buddhism is experiencing a massive revival in its historic areas. Yes, there are Russian Buddhists.

The drums, the bells and the chants are redolent of Asia. But the language spoken between the monks here near the shores of Lake Baikal is Russian.

Ulzutuev Yondon, who teaches philosophy at Ivolginsky datsan, Russia’s main Buddhist monastery, says that when he was studying Buddhism in India, people did not believe he was Russian. Read more ..

China on Edge

Chinese Firm Demands CNN Apology for Century Egg Slur

July 11th 2011

Food - Century Egg
Pi dan, or century egg (credit: Kowloonese)

China’s largest egg processing company says it is demanding an apology from a U.S.-based television network for describing a traditional Chinese dish as the world’s most disgusting food.

Chinese broadcast and print media said Wednesday the demand was issued by the chairman of the Hubei Shendan Healthy Food Company on behalf of his 3,000 workers.

The company makes a dish called pi dan, or century eggs, in which eggs are preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and traditional medicines until the yolk turns a dark green or gray and the white becomes a brown, translucent jelly. Read more ..

Edge of History

Maryland and Texas Excavations Reveal the World of 19th Century immigrants

July 11th 2011

History American - Texas historical archaeology

An archaeological team from the University of Maryland is unearthing a unique picture of the Baltimore-area's early Irish immigrants - of city children taught to read and write at home before widespread public education and child labor laws, as well as insular rural residents who resisted assimilation for one hundred years.

The excavation in the city represents the first formal archaeological research to focus on Baltimore's early Irish settlement and labor force.

"Behind the closed doors of their modest Baltimore homes, beyond the view of their bosses, these unskilled railroad workers maintained a rich social, religious and family life," says University of Maryland archaeologist Stephen Brighton, whose students just finished digging in the backyards of 19th century Baltimore immigrants.

Now, Brighton's team has begun work excavating another Baltimore-area site - a small settlement in Texas, Maryland that resisted adopting a more mainstream American lifestyle up to the Eisenhower years. This is the third year Brighton's team has worked there. Read more ..

Edge on Genetics

Population Genetics Reveals Shared Ancestries

July 8th 2011

Social Topics - African ancestry

More than just a tool for predicting health, modern genetics is upending long-held assumptions about who we are. A new study by Harvard researchers casts new light on the intermingling and migration of European, Middle Eastern and African and populations since ancient times.

In a paper titled "The History of African Gene Flow into Southern Europeans, Levantines and Jews," published in PLoS Genetics, HMS Associate Professor of Genetics David Reich and his colleagues investigated the proportion of sub-Saharan African ancestry present in various populations in West Eurasia, defined as the geographic area spanning modern Europe and the Middle East. While previous studies have established that such shared ancestry exists, they have not indicated to what degree or how far back the mixing of populations can be traced. Read more ..

Health Edge

Do-it-Yourself Home Air Purifier for About $25, Researchers Say

July 7th 2011

Science - UM do it yourself air purifier

Avoiding indoor allergens can help ease sinus congestion. Many people with sinus problems have underlying allergies to dust, pollen, mold or animal dander. All of these can build up in the air inside homes.

One of the best ways to get rid of allergy symptoms is to avoid allergens in the first place, says Jeffrey E. Terrell, M.D., director of the University of Michigan Health System’s Michigan Sinus Center. To avoid indoor allergens, many doctors recommend using an air purifier with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter.

The cost of these machines can run from $75 up to $800 for high-end systems. For those who are looking for a cheaper alternative for high-use rooms such as the bedroom, Terrell offers a do-it-yourself solution at a fraction of the cost. “This is a filtration system that you can put together with items from your local hardware store for $25 to $30 and use in your home to cut indoor allergens by about 90 percent,” says Terrell.

Start with a 20-inch by 20-inch box fan, which often retails for about $12. To the front of it, tape a 20-inch by 20-inch by 1-inch furnace filter. Read more ..

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